15 July 2019

Mohammed Amin: I don’t like the term “Islamophobia”. But since we’re stuck with it, here’s my own definition

As explained previously, I consider that 22 years of poor-quality definitions of Islamophobia have made the word incapable of being rescued.

However, in Parliament during May, James Brokenshire committed the Government to coming up with its own definition. To save it work, I am supplying one.

In my view, the key goal of any new definition must be to make it clear that, like antisemitism and homophobia, Islamophobia is about how you treat other people, and not about your views regarding an abstract noun (Islam).

I have intentionally used the structure of the IHRA definition of anti-semitism, since it has become an industry standard. I have also added some emphasis, as there are certain words in the IHRA (Interntional Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition which many people regularly ignore or forget about. [ConservativeHome] Read more

Boris Johnson claimed Islam put Muslim world 'centuries behind'

.... Writing about the rise of the religion in an appendix added to a later edition of The Dream of Rome, his 2006 book about the Roman empire, Johnson said there was something about Islam that hindered development in parts of the globe and, as a result, “Muslim grievance” was a factor in virtually every conflict.

Johnson’s argument was described as disconcerting and problematic by Tell Mama, which monitors anti-Muslim hate and said he had demonstrated a lack of understanding of the religion. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said many people would like to know if the favourite to become the next prime minister still believed “Islam inherently inhibits the path to progress and freedom”.

.... “It is extraordinary to think that under the Roman/Byzantine empire, the city of Constantinople kept the candle of learning alight for a thousand years, and that under Ottoman rule, the first printing press was not seen in Istanbul until the middle of the nineteenth century. Something caused them to be literally centuries behind.” [The Guardian] Read more

Islamophobia 'going mainstream' as poll finds 31% think religion poses a threat

Islamophobia has gone mainstream, with liberal, middle class voters also expressing anti-Muslim views an anti-racist group has argued.

People continue to see Muslims overwhelmingly more negatively than any other religious group according to research with 31% of the population believing that Islam poses a threat to the British way of life.

Some 18% of people have an extremely negative view of Muslims according to a poll by anti-racist group Hope Not Hate.

There’s a general decrease in the share of people who see Islam as a serious threat to Western civilisation.

44% agree, down from 52% in our 2017 Fear and HOPE poll, alongside a decrease in concern about islamist extremism.

But there’s also a huge age gap in perceptions of Muslims.

Only 8% of 18-24 year olds see Muslims extremely negatively compared to 22% of all people aged over 50. A total of 6,118 adults were polled by YouGov between 26th April - 1st May 2019. [Daily Mirror] Read more

13 July 2019

What does the Muslim Council of Britain have against Muslims like me?

Have you ever wondered why there are so few moderate Muslim voices in the press? It’s not because they don’t exist. There are over a billion of us in the world. In many cases, it’s because of the way we are treated by hardliners. Once again, they have trained their crosshairs on me, this time charging me with ‘misrepresenting Muslim behaviour and belief’ and ‘negating the belief of some Muslims’. If a Muslim speaks up against political Islam – questioning the legitimacy of these self-appointed spokesmen – this is what we can expect.

Just look at this week’s report by a group called the Centre for Media Monitoring, which claims that ‘Islamophobia’ is on the march in Britain. In making its case, the group cites one of my Spectator articles in which I defended Boris Johnson’s right to criticise the burqa (a garment which, unlike Boris, I do not think has any place in a tolerant society, nor a basis in Islam).

The Centre for Media Monitoring claims that my column – and The Spectator itself – is guilty of ‘misrepresenting Muslim behaviour’. But what exactly is this body? The group’s own report admits it is part of the Muslim Council of Britain, a highly-politicised organisation. But actually the link is closer than that: its founder and executive director is also the official mouthpiece of the Muslim Council of Britain. [The Spectator] Read more

11 July 2019

Saudi Arabia 'planning to relax male guardianship laws'

Saudi Arabia could be planning to relax the country’s strict male guardianship laws to allow women to leave the country without needing permission from a male relative, according to reports.

Travel restrictions for women over the age of 18 are due to be lifted this year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, quoting Saudi officials familiar with the matter.

The planned changes would also lift restrictions on international travel for men under the age of 21 without the consent of designated male family members.

Potential reforms to travel rules for women were also mentioned in Saudi Arabia’s Okaz newspaper on Tuesday.

'What they did to me was so horrific': brutal silencing of a Saudi feminist

Such a move would have a radical impact on life in the conservative kingdom, where human rights organisations say the male guardianship system makes women second-class citizens.

Saudi women still need the permission of a male relative to make major life decisions, including marriage, divorce and obtaining a passport. The system also makes it difficult for women to seek help for domestic and sexual violence issues or win child custody cases. [The Guardian] Read more

10 July 2019

'It will legalise child brides and polygamy': Pauline Hanson says proposed religious discrimination laws will be exploited by Muslim extremists

Pauline Hanson has predicted new laws banning religious discrimination could be exploited by Muslim extremists to justify child brides, female genital mutilation and polygamy.

The One Nation leader has voiced her fears as Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government plans to introduce legislation making it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their religious beliefs.

'I am concerned that such a bill could be used by radical Islamic extremists as a shield to protect the worst aspects of their political ideology,' the Queensland senator told her 278,000 Facebook followers on Tuesday night.

'By forcing this through without scrutiny the government may be creating a pathway for extremists to practice polygamy, genital mutilation, or even under-aged marriage and this cannot be allowed to happen.

'We must always be on guard for the unintended consequences of good intentions.' [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

Saudis vexed at low ranking on press freedom index after Khashoggi murder

Officials in Saudi Arabia privately complained about the kingdom’s low ranking on an influential press freedom index, less than one year after the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi murder squad.

Campaigners at Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Saudis aired their dismay at a series of unprecedented meetings with government officials in Riyadh. RSF has revealed to the Guardian that it held the confidential meetings in April to advocate for the release of 30 jailed journalists, an act that the press freedom group said was the “only way” for Saudi Arabia to assume the G20 presidency next year.

The urgent call comes less than a year after Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist, was brutally murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. A recent UN report into the murder found “credible evidence” that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, and other senior officials, were liable for the killing. [The Guardian] Read more

09 July 2019

Centre for Media Monitoring Calls for Transparency and Accountability in Light of New Report Findings

A detailed study of print and broadcast reports reveals a serious problem in the way that British media reports about Islam and Muslims.

Examining over 10,000 articles and clips referring to Muslims and Islam in the period of Q4 2018, the study was conducted by the Muslim Council of Britain’s newly formed Centre for Media Monitoring, which presents its findings in parliament today.

The study’s methodology was verified by Professor Paul Baker, one of the leading corpus linguist experts in the country.

The study reveals:

59% of all articles associated Muslims with negative behaviour

37% of articles in right-leaning and religious publications were categorised with the most negative rating of “very biased”

Over a third of all articles misrepresented or generalised about Muslims

Terrorism was the most common theme

Case study examples highlighted include the Spectator’s publication of the statement: “there are Muslims who want to come and get me for my Jewish blood”, Christian Today’s headline “The European Church is sleeping

while Islam is creeping in, says African bishop” and the usage of the image of terrorist Khalid Masood at the pilgrimage of Hajj. [Centre for Media Monitoring] Read more

Most UK news coverage of Muslims is negative, major study finds

Most coverage of Muslims in British news outlets has a negative slant, according to a major analysis by the Muslim Council of Britain, which concludes that news stories in the mainstream media are contributing to Islamophobia.

The study found the Mail on Sunday had the most negative coverage of Islam, with 78% of its stories featuring Muslims having negative themes – above an already-high industry average of 59%.

The New Statesman, Observer and Guardian were the least likely to portray Muslims in a negative light, according to the analysis of 11,000 articles and news broadcasts during the final three months of last year.

The findings come amid growing scrutiny of Islamophobia in the Conservative party and whether its roots lie in rightwing media coverage. A YouGov poll of Tory members by the campaign group Hope Not Hate found that 60% believe “Islam is generally a threat to western civilisation” and more than half believe “Islam is generally a threat to the British way of life”. [The Guardian] Read more

'Serious Problem' With Media Portrayal Of Muslims And Islam, Study Claims

Sections of the British media have a “serious problem” in the way they portray Islam and Muslims, a study has claimed.

Some 59% of reports published towards the end of last year associated Muslims with “negative behaviour”, research by the Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM) suggested.

The project, run by the Muslim Council of Britain, said it analysed 10,931 published articles and broadcast reports between October to December 2018 by most major national titles and news television programmes.

More than a third of the articles that were checked “misrepresented or generalised” about Muslims, according to the report.

CfMM director Rizwana Hamid said the findings - to be presented to parliament on Tuesday - showed there was “no doubt about the seriousness of Islamophobia within sections of British media”.

The report claimed 37% of religious and “right-leaning” publications and 14% of Sky News broadcasts analysed were “very biased”.

Analyst Faisal Hanif, a former BBC researcher and Times reporter who co-wrote the report, said the overall picture was “mixed” despite “many examples” of misrepresentation. [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

Blackburn charity reprimanded over using cash to build mosque

A CHARITY has been given an official warning by regulators over its financial management including diverting cash to help pay for the building of a new £1.3million mosque.

The Islamic Educational Society of Blackburn (IES) was reprimanded by the Charity Commission after a statutory inquiry into its affairs.

The investigation found the society had inadequate financial controls and had repeatedly failed to submit its accounts as required by law.

The probe highlighted the charity’s decision to divert funds towards the building of the Noorul Islam mosque in Audley Range where it is now based.

The Commission says the society, founded in 1969, failed to change its original constitution to allow it to pay towards the construction of the place of worship which opened in July 2010. [Lancashire Telegraph] Read more

Muslim Council of Great Britain campaigns for 'fairer' media coverage

The Muslim Council of Great Britain is to launch a campaign in Parliament for fairer media coverage later.

The council said there was "a serious problem" with the way the UK media reported on Islam and Muslims.

It looked at more than 10,000 articles and TV clips from the last three months of 2018, and said 59% of print articles linked Muslims with negative behaviour.

The study was not open to academic scrutiny but its methodology was analysed by a linguistics analyst.

It covered most major national titles and news television programmes, plus TV drama.

Press regulator Ipso is hoping to publish new guidelines on reporting Islam in the UK in the autumn.

The Muslim Council of Britain's newly-formed Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM) will present its findings in Parliament on Tuesday. The council represents the interests of Muslims in Britain. [BBC] Read more

The website helping ex-Muslims flee the Gulf

A website set up by a Saudi exile is helping other former Muslims to flee persecution in their Gulf homelands.

In some Arab countries ex-Muslims can be prosecuted for renouncing their faith, and in Saudi Arabia those convicted of apostasy may be sentenced to death.

Taleb Al-Abdulmohsen set up wearesaudis.net after he became an atheist and claimed asylum in Germany.

The site also helps ex-Muslims like "Dina" who want to escape abroad because they fear relatives will force them to marry. [BBC] Read more

08 July 2019

Banned ‘Trojan horse’ school governor holding sex education seminars

A banned school governor who was found to have undermined British values has relaunched a controversial Muslim parents’ group and is holding seminars on sex education, The Times has learnt.

Tahir Alam, who was banned from any involvement in schools after the so-called Trojan horse scandal, has revived the Muslim Parents Association, which had been wound up following the alleged plot to impose Islamist values on schools in Birmingham.

In a move that critics said was an attempt to hijack the row over LGBT teaching in schools, Mr Alam last week hosted the first monthly seminar on relationship and sex education in Birmingham.

A leaflet for the event said that parents would be provided with advice, support and training and it would discuss their rights and the Islamic perspective on the issue, which has been the source of protests outside primary schools in recent months. [The Times (£)] Read more

Most Tory members believe Islam is 'a threat to British way of life', poll finds

The survey, by anti-racism campaigners Hope Not Hate, also found that nearly two-thirds of Tory activists believe the religion is "a threat to western civilisation".

Labour said the findings showed that "Islamophobia and racism are ingrained" among some Conservative members.

Some 60% think that "Islam is generally a threat to Western civilisation", with fewer than one-in-five (17%) taking the opposite view.

The YouGov study follows polling results released last month, which found that almost half of Conservative members would not accept a Muslim as the country's Prime Minister.

They were released as Tory activists vote on whether Boris Johnson or Jeremy Huny should be their next leader and Prime Minister.

Shadow equalities minister, Dawn Butler said: "This poll shows that Islamophobia and racism are ingrained among some Conservative Party members. It is worrying that the people choosing our next Prime Minister hold these views.

"Boris Johnson has a lot to answer for - both because of his own record of racism and Islamophobia, including just last year comparing Muslim women to 'bank robbers' and 'letterboxes', and because of the likelihood that these Tory Party members will vote for him as leader.

"He should be held to account for it and have the decency to apologise. [PoliticsHome] Read more

06 July 2019

UK urged to take action on 'shocking' persecution against Pakistan's religious minorities

Lord Alton has challenged the UK Government to put more pressure on Pakistan to stop the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.

Lords heard how religious minorities in the Muslim-majority country are being "ghettoised into squalid colonies" and subjected to "shocking" levels of persecution.

Lord Alton contrasted this with the vision of Pakistan's founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, of a nation where minorities would be welcome - a vision that the Pakistani government remarkably endorsed even while coming under intense pressure over the treatment of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman freed from death row for blasphemy last year.

"My Lords, Pakistan's illustrious and enlightened founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, crafted a constitution which promised to uphold plurality," he said. [Christian Today] Read more

05 July 2019

Jihadists massacre entire Christian village in Mali killing at least 100, many burnt to death

At least 100 men, women and children were slaughtered in Sobame Da, a mainly-Christian village in the Mopti region of central Mali, by heavily-armed Islamist extremists on 10 June.

A Barnabas Fund contact described it as the “worst massacre in Mali since 1946”. He said the jihadists encircled the isolated village of ethnic Dogon people at night and set fire to “everything that moved” in a “well-targeted attack”.

Many of the victims’ bodies were burnt – some charred beyond recognition. There are difficulties identifying the remains and the death toll is currently estimated to be between 100 and 135 people. [Barnabas Fund] Read more

Tunisia bans niqab in government offices

Tunisia's prime minister has banned the full-face veil in all government buildings due to security concerns. It comes after a deadly double suicide bombing in Tunis in late June.

.... As far back as February 2014, police had been instructed to step up supervision of the wearing of the niqab — which covers the whole head apart from the eyes — as part of anti-terrorism measures, to prevent its use as a disguise or to escape justice.

Niqabs and other forms of Islamic dress had been banned in Tunisia under secular presidents Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Habib Bourguiba until a 2011 coup overthrew Ben Ali. [Deutsche Welle] Read more

Tunisian PM bans face veils in public institutions after bombing

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has banned the wearing of the niqab, the full face veil, in public institutions for security reasons, an official source said on Friday.

The decision follows a suicide bombing in Tunis by a wanted militant. Witnesses said the suicide bomber, who blew himself up on Tuesday, was disguised in a niqab. The Interior Ministry denied this.

It was the third such incident within a week and came as Tunisia prepares for autumn elections and at the peak of a tourist season in which the country hopes to draw record numbers of visitors. Islamic State has claimed all three attacks.

“Chahed signed a government decree that bars any person with an undisclosed face from access to public headquarters, administrations, institutions, for security reasons,” the official source told Reuters. [Reuters] Read more

03 July 2019

How secular feminists are caught in the middle

The focus of this book is Pakistan but I was struck by the similarity of the ideological battles being fought between secular and Islamic feminists in Pakistan and in Britain. Of course, the contexts are very different. Secular spaces are much narrower and more dangerous places to inhabit in Pakistan – as anyone following the blasphemy case of Asia Bibi will recognise.

This is therefore a brave book. However, Afiya Zia, the author, says that to some extent she is protected by academia and by the fact that these debates are conducted in English rather than Urdu. Equating liberalism and secularism with an English-speaking elite may sound reductive, but this is a reality that is mirrored in India too.

Zia charts the post-9/11 intellectual climate which was shaped in response to the War on Terror. It encouraged many academics and activists to develop a narrative which damns secular feminism as a Western imperialist project which does not engage with the reality of Muslim women. [New Humanist] Read more

Birmingham primary school to resume modified LGBT lessons

A primary school in Birmingham that suspended lessons about LGBT equality following protests by parents is to resume a modified version of the programme in September.

Parents of pupils at Parkfield community school in Saltley staged weekly protests over the relationship lessons, which they claimed promoted gay and transgender lifestyles. In March, hundreds of mainly Muslim children, aged between four and 11, were withdrawn from the school for the day.

Just before Easter, the school announced the “No outsiders” lessons, which teach tolerance of diverse groups, including those of different races, genders and sexual orientations, would not take place until a resolution had been reached.

The school announced on Wednesday that a modified version of the scheme, “No outsiders for a faith community”, would be introduced in September. However, some parents have said they are not happy with the outcome of the consultation and may resume their protests. [The Guardian] Read more

02 July 2019

Pakistani pastor's blasphemy appeal postponed for seventh time

A Pakistani pastor imprisoned and since July 2012 over sending blasphemous text messages has had his hearing adjourned for the seventh time.

Pastor Zafar Bhatti, 56, was sentenced to life imprisonment for blasphemy, a charge he denies.

His most recent appeal hearing was reportedly postponed because the presiding judge was due to go on holiday.

A statement from the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) said in a statement sent to Premier: “The case was moving favourably in the direction of Zafar but Justice Raja Shahid Mahmood Abbasi sought a postponement as he would not have time to complete paperwork before existing travel plans.

“Despite the fervent remonstrations by Advocate Tahir Bashir for a decision to be made to release Pastor Zafar the judge said such a decision could not be made as he was off on holiday and had booked flights."

The court has set 12th September 2019 for the new appeal date for Pastor Zafar.

The pastor founded and led a small NGO called Jesus World Mission to assist the poor.

A local Islamic leader filed a complaint at a police station in Rawalpindi and claimed the pastor had been sent messages from an unregistered number insulting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed and his mother. [Premier] Read more

George Eustice MP: UK is being left behind by other developed nations when it comes to legislation on religious slaughter

.... We are being left behind by other developed nations when it comes to our legislation on religious slaughter. In Australia and New Zealand, non-stun slaughter is not permitted. In many European countries there is either a requirement that there should be an immediate post cut stun where a derogation is used or in some cases a prohibition on non-stun slaughter.

In Germany, there is a strict quota system in place to ensure that abattoirs are only allowed to use the religious derogation where they are able to prove the actual need for the final market of the animals being slaughtered.

.... Both the Muslim and Jewish faiths have a clear religious conviction against the consumption of pork, which should obviously be respected. However, when it comes to the issue of stunning, the religious need is less clear.

Shechita UK who represent the kosher industry, explicitly make clear that their system of slaughter is not a “religious ritual” in the way that Halal is. There is no blessing nor prayer said for animals.

It is simply their view that a method of slaughter used since ancient times could not have been superseded by more humane modern methods. [PoliticsHome] Read more

30 June 2019

Christians in Africa: "You have three days to go or you will be killed!"

Persecution of Christians in the Middle East is now close to "genocide", a UK-commissioned report just revealed. The same threat has also become critical for Christian communities in Africa.

Some say it began in Algeria in the 1990s, when 19 monks, bishops, nuns and other Catholics were killed during the civil war. Since then, in Nigeria, Christian faithful have been massacred in their churches; in Kenya, Christians have been killed in universities; in Libya, Christians have been beheaded on beaches; in Yemen, nuns have been assassinated and in Egypt, massive anti-Christian violence is prompting an exodus. It is the new African archipelago of persecution.

Distressingly, these Christians have been finding themselves in the blind spot of the West: they are "too Christian" to get the Left's attention, but too far away for the Right. Africa's Christians are orphans. They have no "allies", John O'Sullivan writes. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

28 June 2019

Quebec premier shrugs off charge new religious symbols law makes Muslim women more vulnerable to racism

Quebec Premier François Legault says he doesn't "really" believe Muslim women in the province who say they've been the target of Islamophobic incidents since the government passed a law making it illegal for some civil servants to wear religious symbols.

Several Muslim women who wear either the hijab or niqab have told CBC News that since the legislation was tabled in March, they've been harassed, made the target of hateful comments, even spat on.

A women's advocacy group, Justice Femme, recorded more than 40 Islamophobic incidents around Montreal between late March and early May.

Muslim community leaders have shared stories on social media that suggest the incidents of harassment have not died down in the two weeks since the law came into effect.

Legault was asked Thursday on CBC Radio whether he believes the new law — which bars public teachers and other authority figures from wearing religious symbols — makes some Quebecers more vulnerable to racism. [CBC/Radio-Canada] Read more